Marathon Canoe Nationals

Fields of sunflowers in southern Manitoba.

This weekend I went to the Canadian Marathon Nationals in Winnipeg. Marathon Nationals is a LOT smaller and more casual than sprint Nationals, and you don’t need to qualify to enter so it was perfect for a rookie like me. The drive was the same as to Selkirk in the Spring, but now we could see ripe crops and harvest instead of seeded fields.

Loads of Plastex boats in one of the 4 boat bays of the Winnipeg boathouse. Down the river is the Rowing boathouse, about the same size but with a big upstairs.

There is some overlap between sprint and marathon in Manitoba, so I got to see lots of folks I haven’t seen for a long time, including coach Jerome (or Jaroslav as I was first introduced a long time ago) and former National Team Kayaker Dave. Good times! They hosted a nice Saturday night get together at their boathouse with pizza, major salads and beer. Unfortunately for me the beer was served before the pizza arrived… so I drank a couple, talked some shit about stand-up paddle boarding and then took a dare to paddle one up the river. All was well and only minor blood was shed when the 7-foot paddle bounced off a wave and popped me in the mouth. This actually didn’t hurt and I didn’t notice until someone pointed it out later. Ooops!

I remember the Manitoba team pulling up in this van at my very first inter-provincial regatta in Calgary in 1993. The Van de Manitoba still going strong almost 20 years later!

The races went pretty well, so I was mostly satisfied. Saturday I was fortunate to paddle a mixed ‘pro class’ boat with experienced and feisty Milan. I need to do some more chin-ups so we can keep up to superstars Mike and Fiona Vincent, but as it was we came 3rd and overall this was a good performance. Later that day I paddled the ‘Stock race’ with Milan’s wife Nancy. They both know the river really well and steered great lines. Nancy and I challenged some of the Men’s crews, we were the first women and maybe 4th or 5th overall? Sunday I paddled the women’s pro-class race with often-partner Ann. This race was super challenging; we had a lot of bumping off the start and some boat control and wash-riding issues. It seemed like there was easy water for us out there, but as it was we had to gut it out with some brute force. We stayed with the women’s leaders for maybe 1km, then fought for 2nd/3rd for the rest of the race. We had to fight back from some bad corners and it came down to a sprint that was not decided until the last 10m. I guess my decade+ of sprint training (distant though it may be) surfaced somehow and this one went in our favour. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures soon, there seemed to be cameras out for the start and finish (and thankfully not for the paddle board).